SAN DIEGO — There are not many places you can see 4.6 billion years of history under one roof, but it could be the end of an era in Escondido.
"I have had a love affair all of my life," said Keith Roynon, the founder of the Roynon Museum.
Little kids love dinosaurs and so does Mr. Roynon, who is 81 years old.
"This is the skull of a T. Rex," he said while giving Jeff a tour of the museum that houses thousands of specimens in Thursday's Zevely Zone.
A man fascinated by the passage of time, may have to announce the end of his own era.
"If we don't get the cash that we need to keep moving here then we will have to close down," said Roynon.
The fossil collector opened his own museum four years ago after collecting bones for seven decades.
"I started collecting when I was six years old," said Roynon.
It's a collection he says is worth at least $6 million.
"There is an extremely rare Saber-Tooth Cat here and here is the three-toed horse and you are looking at a primitive dog," said Roynon.
That dog is 32 million years old and that's something to bark about.
"It's a hobby gone wild that's what I say - a hobby gone wild," said Sherry Bauer the Director of Education and Special Events. "He is the best guy in the world. He is like a dad to me."
Sherry is the museum's only paid employee.
They have generous volunteers but without firmer financially footing the museum will be history by the end of June. Mr. Roynon knows it's a really big bite but he is hoping for an ongoing sponsorship somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000 a year so he can retire and hire two employees in his place.
No one wants to see a dinosaur exhibit go extinct.
"That is sad. Why is it going out of business?" asked a visitor named Gloria Macy.
Mostly because not enough people know to look for dinosaurs in Escondido corner.
"I didn't know it was here. I always come down Grand and go off toward Valley Parkway," said another visitor.
The museum is mostly populated by school field trips. Hard to figure out what Roynon loves more: his collection or the kids.
"To see the thousands of children that we have put through this museum, it lives with you all of your life," said Roynon.
To see this museum close would be a pain Keith Roynon would feel deep down in his bones.
"What else do I know? Put it that way," said Roynon. "Every time I walk through this museum every piece in this museum has a story. My life blood is in this museum."
If you'd like to help out or visit the collection in Escondido go to: roynonmuseum.org/.
A statement from the Roynon Museum reads in part:
"It saddens many of us to announce that the Roynon Museum of Earth Science and Paleontology will be closing its doors on June 30, 2019 for the last time.
Mr. Keith Roynon has spent over 75 years building his collection. For the last twenty-five years or more, the main goal was to improve the quality and variety, that would best meet the needs of educating young children throughout San Diego County. It would be difficult to estimate how many children have walked through the museum’s doors and it has been exciting as some of those same children have now brought their own children to see the wonders, and yes, to meet Mr. Roynon. Mr. Roynon IS this museum. His stories, his way of exciting the children, along with his dedication and enthusiasm, are loved by everyone.
Mr. Roynon has been working four or five days a week since we opened the current location. We have all encouraged him to retire and enjoy life. He and his wife still have a lot of living to do and we would love to see them having more time to do the things they enjoy. The fact is, this museum has been the joy of Mr. Roynon’s life, second only to his wife Judy. This has been a very difficult decision and more than a few tears have been shed. But as they say, it is best to go out on top and we all feel that is where the museum is right now.
So, what happens next? Specimens owned by the Museum’s Educational Foundation will be donated to another qualifying museum. Items belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Roynon will be put up for sale, donated or gifted. When asked, Mr. Roynon has stated, “It’s not about the money, it’s about getting these items where others can see and appreciate them, and hopefully learn something new or be inspired to delve into the field of paleontology or geology.”